Tasks vs Priorities: How They’re Different and Why It Matters

Tasks vs Priorities: How They're Different and Why It Matters

Does your to-do list feel like a never-ending story? You cross a few things off the top of the list only to add a few more to the bottom. This goes on day after day and you start to feel discouraged. Surely there must be a better way to keep on top of things. The good news is that yes, there is. It’s all about learning to separate tasks from priorities.


Why a To-Do List Doesn’t Really Serve You

When you make a to-do list, it’s easy to work on what’s the easiest to cross off rather than what is the most important. By not separating tasks from priorities, entire teams become bogged down and feel like they never have enough time to get everything done. As the owner of a small business, it’s your job to help employees achieve a set number of goals that everyone agrees are important.

To ensure that you help your teams create meaningful goals, they should have something to do with the vision or mission of your company. For example, perhaps your company exists to make higher education more equitable for all. The problem is that’s a vague statement. Together, you and your employees should decide how to do this.

Will it involve putting on seminars in low-income neighborhoods to teach students how to apply for scholarships? Perhaps it will involve running a mentoring program between a high school student and a college graduate who works in the community. The important thing is that these are priorities, and anything put on a to-do list should reflect them.

A to-do list keeps everyone busy, often times busier than they need to be. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re accomplishing anything meaningful or that they know how to respond to variations in the company routine. By focusing so much energy on today, you and your employees can’t look towards the future.


The Most Important Things Don’t Usually Show Up on a To-Do List

For most small business owners, priorities don’t land on a typical daily to-do list because it can be difficult to identify them. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. Spend some time with your employees determining the most important priorities for your company. Once you have done this, it will be easier to establish a budget to support the priorities as well as a realistic time table for delivery. You and your teams will see better results than you would by sticking to a task-based list alone. This will only motivate everyone to work even harder to meet priorities.

Going through this process enables everyone to create more effective to-do lists that are not bogged down with numerous tasks. Just remember to make it easy for team members to share their lists among each other.  While tasks still require completion, delegating them to a lesser importance than priorities helps to take the pressure off and boosts productivity at the same time.


At Business Partner Alliance,  we’d love to help with more tips on taming your individual to-do list.  We provide targeted coaching, consulting and business advisory services to help small and medium sized business owners achieve new heights. We put our passion and experience to work to help business people achieve their goals. Let’s meet for coffee to see how we can work together.